Our first Sonoma Cabernet Clash was way back in January 2009, so the moment to revisit these was sorely overdue. For reasons lost to time, only four wines were represented in that first round, instead of the usual six. And for our second Sonoma Cabernet Clash, an eleventh-hour cancellation meant that only five wines were compared.
Sonoma is a very diverse area, with a wide range of microclimates and appellations, making it more difficult to define in comparison to Napa Valley, just a mountain range away. While only three wineries were represented, we did enjoy how different each bottle was from each other. Two of the bottles turned out to be Beringer's Knights Valley Cabernet, with the current vintage (2019) offered in comparison to the 2007. The 2019 and 2021 Banshee Sonoma County Cabernets were also revealed. Finally, David brought the Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet 2007 to the table.
Clearly, we appreciated wines with some age, with both 2007 bottles coming out on top, and only separated by two points. These had an extra edge to them, offering tertiary notes of fall leaves and forest floor. The youngest wine received no points, and seemed to be made from overly ripe grapes.
Thanks to Andy for this month’s photos.
First Place: Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Knights Valley). Looked older, with some rusty, slightly faded color. Integrated, interesting nose, featuring scents of black cherry, cigar, fresh licorice, dried oregano, and stewed plums. Medicinal, in an herbal way, plus hints of oak, fall leaves, and a little bit of funk. Josephine found "some decaying organic thing", while Ali noted "not a dried Twizzler." Dates, black cherry, and coffee on the palate, with a smooth, harmonious texture. Kristin felt that the finish was a bit short, however. Andy, David, and Josephine's favorite on the night, for a total of 26 points. Kristin's bottle. About $22.
Second Place: Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Jack London Vineyard 2007 (Sonoma Valley). Looked older, showing a hint of gold and rusty brown on the rim. Slightly funky nose of worn saddle leather, chorizo, forest floor, bark, cherries, and Castelvetrano olives. Dark and mysterious. Josephine detected "cracked brown leather jacket." Flavors were all very integrated, with subdued fruit, such as dates and fig. Kristin noted that "this takes me on a journey", and Josephine said, "It just whispers at you, it doesn't need to announce itself, it's self-assured." Ali and Kristin's favorite. 24 points. David's bottle. About $35.
Third Place: Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Knights Valley). Youthful in appearance, with a nose of blackberries, cassis, dust, dark tobacco, candle wax, oak, black cherries, and freshly brewed coffee. A little bit of smoke and cranberries. Tasted much like the nose smelled, with flavors of cassis, blackberries, black cherries, and black pepper. Excellent on the attack, but we didn't feel that it flowed along compared to our top two wines. David noted that it felt a bit hot. Andy found "blueberry pancakes", while Ali detected "stalky vegetable." 15 points. Ali's bottle. About $25.
Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Sonoma County). Dusty on the nose, with tasters finding scents of bitter chocolate, cedar, old clothes, cinnamon, black pepper, dark mushroom, red roses, cocoa powder, and cantaloupe. Not a lot of fruit. Autumnal. Harmonious in the mouth, making more of a statement, with great texture and clear tannins. Rich, but not heavy. Balanced, though higher in acidity compared to some others, with some freshness to it. Tastes like fall. Refined. 5 points. Josephine's bottle. About $23.
Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Sonoma County). The most electric and youthful in color of the night. Smelled like a box of raisins, vanilla caramel candies, cranberry syrup, cola in a can, cough medicine, and cherry flavoring. Obviously ripe. Candied and tasting overdone, along with notions of iced tea and a little bit of espresso on the finish. Strong on the attack, but fades quickly. No points. Andy's bottle.